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State Senate Finishes Starting

The beginning, at least for the Texas Senate, came to an end this week.

Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, is shown her lottery number by Senate Secretary Patsy Spaw on Jan. 23, 2013.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst fleshed out the Senate committees late last week, and the House could drop its own list any minute (a forecast that covers everything from one minute to a couple of weeks). Dewhurst earlier named the chairs, taking most of the news out of his assignments. He made them at the end of the day last Friday — not unusual timing — and left the senators who wanted to stew a weekend to do it alone.

More momentous was this week’s news, when the only two senators who really had cause to worry about two-year terms drew their straws and got two-year terms. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, and Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, will both be on the ballot in 2014.

For Campbell, that could mean challenges from establishment Republicans and/or Republicans from San Antonio who’d like to haul that seat back to Bexar County. Campbell will be the incumbent, but a new one, with only a year in office on her resume at the start of that race. And instead of an outsider storming the castle, she’ll be on the castle wall next time, playing defense.

For Davis, it means running in a gubernatorial election year; she has previously run in presidential years — both with Barack Obama at the top of the ballot. In 2008, when Davis was first elected, statewide Republicans outperformed statewide Democrats in that district by 4.1 percentage points. In 2010, she wasn’t on the ballot; statewide Rs beat statewide Ds that year by an average of 17.5 percentage points.

The draws will stick only until and unless the courts change the redistricting maps again. Those cases are still pending, and anybody who’s district gets moves will have the pleasure of appearing on the ballot again in 2014, not matter how they drew this week.

Two-year terms: Campbell; John Carona, R-Dallas; Davis; Bob Deuell, R-Greenville; Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls; Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills; Joan Huffman, R-Southside Place; Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville; Dan Patrick, R-Houston; Ken Paxton, R-McKinney; Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown; Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo; Kirk Watson, D-Austin; Royce West, D-Dallas; and John Whitmire, D-Houston.

Four-year terms: Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury; Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock; Rodney Ellis, D-Houston; Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler; Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay; Glenn Hegar, R-Katy; Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen; Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville; Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound; José Rodríguez, D-El Paso; Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood; Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio; Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio; Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands; and Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo.

The winner of the special election in SD-6 — the late Mario Gallegos’ seat in Houston — will also serve for four years. That election is on Saturday, with eight candidates on the ballot. Early voting turnout was dismal. According to the Harris County clerk’s office, 5,369 voters had cast ballots and 2,876 mail ballots were in the box.

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83rd Legislative Session Texas Senate